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Digitised texts and images available via advanced IIIF-technology

Leiden University Libraries (UBL) has made approximately 200.000 digitised books, maps, photographs and other materials available in Digital Collections via the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). IIIF offers researchers and lecturers numerous new ways to share digital images from different institutions, to compare and annotate them, to select details in images, to link to images without needing to copy them, and more. Thanks to IIIF Advanced Viewer, images of, for example, a hard to decipher manuscript, can be adjusted for brightness, contrast, or saturation, to make it readable. IIIF technology could help advance research and education already using digital techniques.

International Image Interoperability Framework - IIIF

Worldwide, many image files are stored in local databases, at libraries, museums or other heritage institutions, only accessible via proprietary interfaces and applications. IIIF’s goal is to break down these institutional barriers, allowing images to be requested in a uniform manner, regardless of institutional origin. IIIF accomplishes this through an internationally agreed upon and open “Framework”. In this way, not only images from the institution’s own collections can be displayed in one viewer, but digital images from other institutions as well, if they use IIIF. Every IIIF item includes a manifest. This describes the technical and functional specifications of the item. The IIIF community-developed software that can process data from this manifest and prepare the image for use. This manifest and accompanying software make the conversion from specific to general, and local to worldwide possible.

Leiden University Library Digital Collections
Every IIIF image in Digital Collections has an Advanced Viewer button on the page. This button can be used to open the image in the academic work environment.

IIIF Advanced Viewer

IIIF images can be requested in Digital Collections by clicking the “IIIF Advanced Viewer” button under “Facets” in the left-hand column after having entered a query. It is also possible to search within a specific digital collection (like “Rare Books”) with the search term “IIIF”. In the search results, descriptions will display an Advanced Viewer button, recognisable by the blue and red IIIF logo. This button opens the image in Mirador, a combination of a viewer and an academic work environment. This viewer can zoom in to a great level of detail. Furthermore, it is possible to change the way the image is displayed, for example, by changing contrast, colour saturation, or by converting an image to black and white. In the IIIF Advanced Viewer, an image can be compared by placing multiple versions above, under, or next to the original. This creates the opportunity, for example, for zooming in or out without losing sight of the overall picture. In total, twenty-five images can be displayed side by side in this way in the viewer. Moreover, it is possible to display multiple images from different documents next to one another. These could be from Digital Collections or any other international IIIF collection. The potential and functionality of the IIIF Advanced Viewer are explained in this instruction video.

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IIIF in research and education

With IIIF, it is now possible to use image files from different collections without the necessity for copying them. For researchers, this directly means that they won’t have to download enormous collections of images any more, but that URL’s will provide durable access to the image files. For lecturers, it’s now easy to include links in PowerPoint presentations or webpages, to digitized photographs, paintings, or certain pages or openings from books that are then shown in the Advanced Viewer. In several pilot projects, realised by the UBL Centre for Digital Scholarship in co-operation with Leiden researchers, the IIIF protocol was used as well. Examples of these projects are Digital Manuscripts in the Classroom and Mouse and Manuscript. Using Western and Eastern manuscripts respectively. On these platforms, students can learn how manuscripts were created and used.

In the IIIF Advanced Viewer, images from different documents can be shown side by side. These could be held in Digital Collections (left), or in other IIIF collections like Stanford Libraries (right).

With annotations, part of the IIIF core, both researchers and educators can enrich sources and share findings. The Abnormal Hieratic Global Portal, for example, provides information on the meaning of words that are decipherable by almost no-one. In this way, students can learn a new script, while experts can share their research. Because of the indexation of annotations, the portal also functions as the start of a dictionary and “name book”. We are currently investigating options for broader deployment of the annotation functionality.

Because IIIF standards are built on web-standards, not just image viewers, but other applications, too, can load and process the objects. Recently, several lecturers have been using the FromThePage platform in their subjects to familiarize students with the creation of digital editions.

Although IIIF is widely applicable because of a solid development base, UBL is working on the expansion of standards to develop better linking of geo-information to IIIF object. This would make the integration of earlier results from crowd-funding projects in research and education even easier.

In the IIIF Advanced Viewer, it is possible to show multiple images side by side, making it possible to zoom without losing sight of the overall picture.

Founding member

UBL is a founding member of the IIIF Consortium. The IIIF community is international and is comprised of a rapidly increasing number of heritage institutions, among which are: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Bodleian Library, British Library, Europeana, The J. Paul Getty Trust, Harvard University, Kyoto University Library Network, Qatar National Library, Smithsonian Institution, Stanford University, University of Hong Kong and Vatican Library, all founding members as well.

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